The Whale Record
A list of sightings and circumstances
So this is the beginning of a new computer project. I am going to attempt to bring all my whale sightings, adventures and observations into chronological order. I am starting this on Jan. 28th, 2007.
Aside from the occasional sighting of a whale from land as a youngster it wasn’t until my Humpback experience at Bodega Bay in 1971 that I can recall seeing a whale up close. I do remember seeing an Orca show in San Diego before that time but that doesn’t really count. I don’t recall seeing any others while there (Bodega) even though I was out at sea quite often.
The experience (Bodega) I refer to was in a way the most moving in that it was the one where a Humpback breached and then circled my boat as a dense fog closed in on me. He/She stayed with me until it lifted and I found myself right in front of the jetty leading to the harbor. This story can be read in detail in Peter Fromm’s book, Whale Tales.
I did not go to sea again for twenty years and during that time saw no more whales. I did however have an experience while snorkeling outside of Jelapa, Mexico where I was certain I heard a whale call me back to the sea. I also had a dream of being in a submersible and a huge presence passing by me, looking in the port and receiving yet another invitation to return.
In 1992 I went out with Captain Ethan Silva and his schooner Dariabar for a sail out to the Farallon Islands. It was then that I once again saw some whales, quite a few actually. Mostly Humpbacks but some Blues too. It was meant to be a pleasure cruise along with a sea lion release that Pelagikos volunteered to do for the Marin Mammal Center.
On Nov. 28th of 1993 I was asked to be the director of Pelagikos but was unable to participate in any research until I completed my Ph.D. Once again I saw no more whales until the first Channel Islands student expedition in the summer of 1995 (Tomas, Shamaz, Katie and Chris). Most of these were encountered in an area we began to call “Whale City” between Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands. This was a special treat because we did a bit of shamanic exercises with Tomas chanting in whales, “talked” to a messenger (lone Blue Whale) and I was especially treated to a day with him on Santa Rosa Island investigating an ancient Chumash Indian site.
The second trip of ’95 we had Elisabet Sahtouris on board and saw even more whales. Only two students, Linda from the Greenfield Ranch and the “whale” woman joined us. On this trip two Humpbacks followed us very closely (2 feet off the stern) for some time and a ring of seven Blues played with us for an hour (this story also appears in Fromm’s book).
A final trip (Nimka, Rene and Katie) took place in the summer of ’96 but we saw no whales at all. We were told by local fisherman that we were just a week late because many had been spotted the day before.
For reasons, which I cannot remember at this time, I did not go out again on Dariabar until 1997-98 when we (Pelagikos) were involved in Scripps ATOC project in Hawaii.
That was a good expedition in many ways but I was really glad to get off her after my almost 6 month stay on board. I had been on board as crew (dogwatch) and it was one hell of an experience! Saw plenty of whales but all business for us.
Another 4 years passed before I was again with the whales. I took Amber Trotter (a visiting student) out for a look around (whales, dolphins etc) in the spring of 2004 off the village of El Cardonal, BCS, Mx. I chartered a pangero named Vicente and we came across some whales.
Later in February I took off for a few weeks for a diving/kayaking trip around the East Cape of BCS. Ended up in Bahia Magdalena where I went out with another pangero named Gambio and had a nice Grey Whale adventure (2004).
I continued on to Loreto with the idea of maybe running into the Canadian (Richard Sears) Blue Whale people. I lucked out and met Richard Sears who got me interested in doing some photo ID’s of Blues. This is also when I kayaked out to Isla Carmen off Juncalito Beach and got into a small pod of Blues (4-5). Though I only got within 200-300 feet of any of them, on the return to the beach I encountered one very large one going south who surfaced right near me (cruising speed) and then dove just before the kayak. It was a thrill to say the least.
On my return to Cardonal I stopped once again at Bahia Magdalena and did another Grey Whale trip. This one was much more interesting because there were many more whales and very active around the boat. This was the time two males and a female came up right underneath the panga and gave us a rush.
The next day I kayaked out to the mangroves and crossed paths with another Grey working it’s way through the channel. This ended my whale encounters for 2004 but I was asked by Richard Sears to help him ID whales in 2005. Little did I know how deep I was getting into the whale thing!
2005 began my serious study of whales in the area. I had purchased a new camera and with Blues in mind enlisted Vicente and two students, Lenee Goselin and Kristin Paiva, to help me out.
The following information comes from the calendars I kept for each year.
- Jan. 13th spotted first whale from shore
- Jan. 23rd, second whale from shore
- Jan. 28th, 2 whales from shore
- Feb. 2nd, 2 sperm whales from Punta Pescadero shore
- Feb. 7th, first whales from boat (12), Lenee here, major action around Punta Pescadero, no ID’s, still thinking blues
- Feb. 15th, 2 from Bodega, 3 in bay
- Feb. 16th, 3 whales
- Feb. 20th, big whale day
- Feb. 25th, another big day, Kristin here now
- Feb. 27th, 2 whales
- Mar. 2nd, 6 whales
- Mar. 3rd, 2 Brydes from kayaks
- Mar. 5th, many whales
- Mar. 10th, many whales but not able to get out
- Mar. 11th, 3 whales
- Mar. 14th, many whales
- Mar. 29th, whale family in kayak
- April 4th, 3 whales from shore
- April 7th, 3 whales, last search
- April 15th, whales spotted by Vicente
- April 18th, Bob sees Brydes(?)
That is the end of the 2005 season.
I submitted my data to Jorge Urban at the Univ. of La Paz and he was very grateful, asked if I’d like to join his project (SPLASH). I put together another benefit and raised enough to do it again and buy a better camera. I had to tell Richard that I saw no Blues but said I would photo them if I saw any the following year.
The 2006 Whale Season
- The 2006 season
- Jan. 13th, first whales, 2 from shore
- Feb. 7th, 1 whale from shore
- Feb. 9th, first 2 whales from boat
- Feb. 14th, 2 Brydes
- Feb. 18th, 1 whale
- Feb. 27th, whales from shore
- Mar. 3rd, 1 whale, 3-5 Brydes
- Mar. 4th, Blue Whale from shore
- Mar. 6th, 4 Blue Whales from shore
- Mar. 7th, 1 Blue (?) from shore
- Mar. 8th, 4-5 Blues from shore
- Mar. 10th, 3 whales, 1 calf
- Mar. 16th, 1 Blue, 1 mama HB & calf
- Mar. 25th, 1 HB, 4 Blues
- Mar. 28th, 2 whales from shore
- Mar. 29th, 2 HB, 5 Blues (Kirin)
- April 4th, 4 Brydes
- April 8th, Mobulas
- April 12th, whale from shore
- April 16th, whale from shore
- April 18th, whales from shore
- April 20th, whale from kayak
End of the 2006 season
The 2007 Whale Season
- Jan. 26th, whale from shore, not me
- Jan. 27th, whale from shore
- Jan. 28th, whale from kayak
- Jan. 31st, 2 whales, 1 ID, surface action intense
- Feb. 6th, no whales w/ Vicente
- Feb. 7th, 3 (4?) whales, 1-2 ID’s, 1 calf
- Feb. 8th, no whales from boat
- Feb. 10th, 1 whale from shore, activo
- Feb. 11th, 3 whales, 3 ID’s, 1 warn off
- Feb. 13th, no whales from 2 mile kayak
- Feb. 20th, no whales from boat (short run, wind)
- Feb. 25th, mom/calf (mom ID) from Talofa acerca Palmilla
- Feb. 28th, no whales from boat
- Mar. 6th, no whales from boat
- Mar. 7th, no whales from boat, report of Blues (Frailes), 2 HB’s reported off Punta Pescadero ca 11:30
- Mar. 8th, no whales from boat, mother/calf sighted by Antonio (La Linea), we could not find, lots of scat
- Mar. 9th, no whales from boat, Blue sighted by fisherman, 12 mi out, we (Martin, bother of Antonio) could not find
- Mar. 10th, Blue Whale from shore, 5:00 pm, ¼ mi, with calf, going south
- Mar. 13th, 6 HB’s (3,2 and 1), whale zone, 4 good ID’s
- Mar. 14th, 1 HB, good ID, Cardonal
- Mar. 15th, HB from shore, 7:00 am, south, HB from shore just north of Barriles, 1:30pm
- Mar. 16th, 9 HB’s, 9 ID’s, HOT DOG!!, 2 more from shore, in afternoon, competitive group of 5m-1f
- Mar. 17th, 2 HB’s, 2 ID’s, Punta Pescadero, close dive 30’
- Mar. 18th, 2 HB’s from shore, going south, 8:30 am
- Mar. 20th, 8 Hb’s from kayak, all going south, after 2:00, ½ mi, 3 (perhaps 2 calves), 2, 1, 2 (close encounter with mom and calf…15’)
- Mar. 21st, 3 HB’s, 3 ID’s (2 good ones), moving south, 1 Random
- Mar. 25th, no whales from boat, water colder?
- Mar. 26th, 2 HB’s, 1 ID, long chase, refusal to fluke till we moved to side, random direction on both sides, “Konner” first whale
- Mar. 28th, 3 HB’s, 2 ID’s, 2 mother/calf pairs, 1 very energetic male HB 33, perhaps 2 other males in vicinity… all breaching, wind prevents
- April 3rd, 1 Blue, 10 mi, PP, Lauren’s whale
- April 4th, 2 Blues, 1 HB ID’d (“the orphan”), saw another Blue
- April 6th, 4 Sperm whales 13 mi east of PP, lost the chance of a lifetime but ID’d? Send to Nadia.
- April 12th, No whales from boat
- April 29th, 4 HB’s reported by Antonio (Blues?), approx. 20 miles out (fisherman call 88)
- May 1st, Vicente sees 2 HB’s near PP
- May 2nd, Last time out (25th) but no whales, great day nevertheless, “Giggling Marlin Restaurant” w/ Vicente, Alan and Marilyn.
- May 7th, Group of Blues out about 10 miles, going South seen by Antonio
- May 8th, 4 (?) HB’s seen around Los Muertos, Vicente or one of his buddies.
- May 9th, 2 (maybe 3) pods of Sperm whales (12 in one pod) seen by Brandice et al. 10 miles out between Cardonal and Muertos. Random movement, slow (logging?)
- May 11th,Went out with Vicente, 2 Brydes whales, pod of Sperms and at least one Blue seen 30 mi out by Antonio
- May 26th,A number of people, including Vicente, see whale during the Toreno. HB’s also
- June 3rd, Fisherman in Muleje see Humpbacks yesterday.
2007 turned out to be my best year ever. I ID’d more whales, and perhaps most importantly, had a number of close encounters that have convinced me to add more close contact with these wonderful and intelligent creatures to my studies. I dove 8 times with the whales and had a kayak experience with a mother/calf that was extraordinary. I also found to my delight that Vicente Lucero (my pangero of 4 years) had become my good friend.